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Daylight Saving

Volume 745: debated on Wednesday 22 May 2013


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of whether the re-introduction of single/double summer time will reduce road deaths; and whether they will publish the road casualty statistics, including date and time, from the 1968-71 daylight saving experiment to inform debate on the matter.

My Lords, we estimate that 54 deaths and 185 serious casualties would be avoided annually across Great Britain if single/double summer time were adopted. However, this would have a much wider effect on the economy and society, which must also be taken into account. The Department for Transport does not hold road casualty statistics from before 1979. Officials are investigating whether other organisations hold the statistics. If they can be obtained, I will make them available.

If I heard the noble Earl correctly, it is very encouraging that the Department for Transport now recognises the connection between daylight saving and a reduction in accidents. Indeed, the statistics seem to prove that. Is the noble Earl aware that it is 45 years since 1968 and that 40 transient Transport Ministers have taken on the job since then? The Minister seems to be the first one who has seen this connection. Will he therefore consider having a debate to deal with the full implications of daylight saving and give an undertaking that, whatever happens with Scotland over independence or any concessions given to it, the time in Scotland will remain the same as south of the border?

My Lords, the department’s admission that there would be casualty savings is not new, but the available savings for each year as we reduce the overall number of casualties are only approximately one-third of the annual reduction in casualties that we expect. I would be delighted to have a debate in your Lordships’ House, but of course that is a matter for the usual channels.

Will my noble friend congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, in asking this question over more than 30 years? I have heard him do so many times.

My Lords, I look forward with bated breath when the noble Lord stands to see whether he will ask about something else. One has to be persistent, but whether the noble Lord will achieve his desired outcome I cannot say.

My Lords, taking into account the value of a human life, which I think the department uses in looking at accidents, I calculate that on the noble Earl’s figures the saving would be in the order of £5 billion. He was much vaguer about the economic downsides. Will he explain more about the economic disadvantages of this change?

My Lords, the noble Lord is quite right: there are serious disadvantages. In the aviation industry, for instance, in the long term it would be positive. However, it would take three years to adapt to the time change, and the aviation industry would need five years’ notice of the change. In addition, it would need another three years if we wanted to go back.

My Lords, apart from the obvious road safety benefits, does my noble friend appreciate that the tourism industry estimates that £3.5 billion of extra revenue and 80,000 new jobs will be generated with double summer time. That is 80,000 jobs across all skill levels. When will the Government stop being so wet on this issue?

My Lords, the Government are not being wet on the issue. If the noble Lord would like to start negotiations with Mr Willie Walsh, he is welcome to do so. However, I accept that the noble Lord’s analysis about the effect on tourism and leisure activities. That is a very good point. I am acutely aware of it when I attend the Great Dorset Steam Fair in September, because by 8 o’clock it is getting dark.

The Minister talked about going back. Is it not worth while looking at the history book rather than the crystal ball on this issue? It has been tried once and Parliament, the Government and presumably public opinion—my memory is not that precise—decided that it was an experiment that had not been successful and that we should revert to the previous situation. In the spirit of openness, will the Minister place in the Library a copy of the arguments that were used in order to end the experiment that was deemed at the time to have been unsuccessful?

My Lords, I suspect that the debates in Hansard will be very illuminating as to why at that point it was decided not to persist with the experiment. As the aviation industry has developed considerably since the trial, it would have much greater effect on that industry. It would probably not have such an adverse effect on the construction industry and in agriculture, however, because much more artificial lighting is now used by them.

Would it not be considerably better if we put the savings into the subsequent costs of pensions and healthcare of those who, according to the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, suffer premature death on the roads?

My Lords, I did not quite get my noble friend’s point. However, if we did this as a trial, because the savings in casualties are only a third of the projected annual savings, we would not be sure whether it was a bad year, a good year, or just the effect of the trial.

My Lords, I have considerable sympathy with argument made by the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw. The statistics have pointed this way for a considerable period. However, surely it would be inopportune for the Government to consider legislation on this matter at present, knowing full well that a significant body of opinion in Scotland is very hostile to the measure and it would look as though this Parliament were seeking to pre-empt the important issues of the referendum.

The noble Lord makes a very good point. The difficulty in Scotland, if we went for single/double summer time is that it would be getting light at 10 o’clock in the morning in some places. Time is a devolved matter for Scotland and for Northern Ireland, but the Government are clear that there should be one time zone throughout the United Kingdom.

My Lords, is it not the case that when the matter was previously investigated, no change was made mainly because of the danger to young children going to school on dark mornings on roads that had not been cleared of snow and that sort of thing? When considering this issue, let us not forget that there is a strong case to look after small children going to school?

I absolutely agree that there is a strong case for looking after children on the roads, but our calculations tell us that in road safety terms the change would be positive. I assure the House that every time this is raised, Ministers such as me ask officials all the searching questions but we come up with the same answer that it would be very difficult to do a trial and that there are very serious objections to it.